The Allergy Medication and Alzheimer’s Connection

over the counter allergy medicationSince researchers at the University of Washington first released their findings on side-effects of some common medications, people have had many questions about the relationship between common over the counter allergy  medication and dementia, pneumonia, and other side effects.

Initial Anticholinergic Study

The initial study linked long-term high dose of a common class of antihistamine, antidepressant and bladder control medication to serious, irreversible side effects such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The Allergy Medication Connection

Anticholinergic medications work by suppressing the action of acetycholine in the body and brain.  This is a neurotransmitter.  That means it transmits messages to the brain.  Two over-the-counter allergy medications fall into this category:

  • Diphenhydramine (Bendryl)
  • Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)

Diphenhydramine is also a common ingredient in over-the-counter sleep medications (like Tylenol PM, Advil PM, etc.).

Other Medications in This Class

Antihistamines were not the only medications identified.  The antidepressant doxepin and the bladder control medication oxybutynin are also in this class. Sertraline (marketed as Zoloft) is included in the class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This class of drugs is used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Read more here:

 Allergy Medication Alternatives

If you are still taking the older generation allergy medications, look at some of the newer offerings.  Loratadine  (Claritin, Alavert) is highly effective for many people with seasonal or indoor allergies.  The inhaled corticosteroids such as Flonase can provide relief when oral medication does not.

Allergy Control without Allergy Medication

allergy-wordsNot only should you talk to your doctor about your medication, you should also talk about other measures you can take to relieve your symptoms without medication.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, using a nasal rinse or neti pot with a saline solution can provide relief.

If you are allergic to dust, make sure you wash sheets regularly and use allergy mattress covers and pillow covers.

Til Next Time!


Allergies and Flying

I’ve written before about allergies and travel.  But what about allergies and flying?  This was a great topic suggested by one of the blog readers.

“Peanut fares” and “flying for peanuts” turned Southwest Airlines from a regional carrier to a major national airline.  Even though their peanuts are iconic, they offer peanut-free flights.

If you have a nut allergy, it is imperative that you let the airline know when you book the flight.  This way, they can accommodate your need to be nut free and the other passengers’ desire for a snack.  I know nut allergy can be life-threatening, but I will admit, when Southwest announces that a flight will be nut-free I inwardly groan.  Pretzels are usually the substitute snack of choice and I despise pretzels.  But I digress.

Also, book your flight for early in the day as possible.  Because airlines turn around flights quickly on the ground, the plane isn’t really cleaned between flights as much as “tidied up”.  This means that peanut residue may linger from earlier flights.  The first flight in the morning will be the cleanest.  Even if you are on the first flight, be sure to have your Epi-Pen handy.

If you are concerned about the spread of viruses and bacteria due to recirculated air, the only mask that is going to protect you is an N95-type mask.

These are designed and manufactured to prevent the inhalation of particles as small as 0.1 microns.  This will protect against viruses and bacteria.  If you remember from the recent swine flu, bird flu, and SARS scares, these were the types of masks you saw people wearing in public.

As far as dust mites and pollens go, the bad news is that the seats and carpets of airplanes aren’t frequently cleaned to remove allergens.  This means that everyone that walks on the plane is bringing a small amount of pollen from the location they are leaving.

The good news is that dust mites aren’t found in large numbers on our clothing.  This means that you shouldn’t have high dust mite populations on your seat.  That is a good thing because it is hard to get liquid through security in your carry-on.

You could put 3 or 4 ounces of ADMS Anti Allergen Spray in a small bottle and spray it around your seat, but do you really want to waste that precious space in your one allowed quart bag of 4-ounce liquids?  Not me!  I’ll save that room for toothpaste and deodorant every time!

If you are having an allergy attack when you are flying, you need to pay close attention to your ears.  Sometimes allergy can lead to the Eustachian tubes being swollen.  It is important that this passage be clear when you experience changes in altitude.

It might be necessary to take a decongestant before your flight.  If so, remember to allow plenty of time for it to enter your bloodstream.  Speaking of medications, if you are like me and suffer from an occasional bout of motion sickness when flying, your allergies are in luck.  The active ingredient in Dramamine is very similar to the antihistamine found in Benadryl.

Don’t let your allergies keep you grounded…flying is not a problem if you are prepared!

Til Next Time

Back to School with Asthma and Allergies

time-is-nowYes the calendar still says July, but its not too early to start thinking about your back to school strategies for dealing with asthma and allergies.   You and your doctor know what needs to be done to keep your child’s asthma and allergies under control, but do the people at school?

Your School Asthma and Allergy Team

The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recommends that you enlist the help of the following school personnel:

Teacher – Your child’s teacher should know your child’s triggers. So, make sure you tell them.  Also, make sure that your child takes their medication BEFORE they leave for school. Don’t miss a dose.  Also, don’t let allergy control measures at home be lost in the back to school craziness that happens the first few weeks of every school year.

Room Parent – If your elementary age child has food allergies, be sure to let the room parent know.  This is especially important if the school allows treats to be brought in from outside.

School Nurse – Take time to discuss emergency procedures with the school’s nurse.  Even if your child is returning to the same school, it doesn’t hurt to provide a quick refresher.  Ever since 2010, all 50 states recognize a student’s right to carry and use emergency asthma and allergy medications such as rescue inhalers and Epi-pens.  If your child has been prescribed emergency treatment medication make sure your child and school staff know how to properly use it.

PE Teacher/Sports Coach – Asthma and allergies doesn’t mean your child must sit on the sidelines. If your child’s doctor has given the go-ahead for participation in sports, then make sure that the PE Teacher or Coach knows what to do in case of an asthma-related event.  Exercise-induced asthma events may signal that the asthma is not under control.

Boost the Immune System Before Back to School

It never hurts to start boosting the immune system before the back to school assault begins.  Be skeptical of remedies and treatments off the shelf that promise to increase immunity.  The tried and true methods are just common sense:

  • Make sure adequate hydration is maintained – that means drink water
  • Get plenty of rest – that means no more all night video game sessions
  • Eat right – that means more frozen juice bars and fewer ice cream cones
  • Play outside – just make sure to use sunscreen, then get some Vitamin D naturally
  • Wash your hands – that doesn’t mean drown in hand sanitizer, it means use soap and water after playing outside and again before eating

Continue to avoid allergy and asthma triggers as much as possible in the lead up to school.

Back to School Physical

Don’t delay in scheduling your child’s back to school physical.  This is a great time to discuss any changes in medication or treatment that may be necessary as your child grows.

Have Fun

Make the most of the remaining days of summer.  Don’t let asthma How to Send you child with allergies to campand allergies hold your child back from swimming, playing, and enjoying childhood.

Til Next Time!


Read – How To Prepare For An Asthma Attack